Book Review: Locked In by Victoria Arlen

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Updated February 28, 2019
Own It: Victoria Arlen's incredible journey and transformation

Basic Details

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£7.99 (Kindle)

Book Information


When Victoria Arlen was ten years old, she suddenly began having a quandary of health issues; asthma, pneumonia, fainting spells, ear infections, flu symptoms, and much more.

Over the course of three short months, she lost her ability to speak, eat, walk, and move, and she slipped into a vegetative state. Victoria became locked inside her own body - able to think clearly and to hear and feel everything - but no one knew. She could not move or communicate and no one could hear her cry for help.

Her daily sanity checks became her only connection to reality and a reminder she was still alive. Her doctors wrote her off as a 'lost cause', convinced her survival was uncertain and recovery unlikely.

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Editor review

1 reviews

Locked In by Victoria Arlen
Overall rating 
Cast your mind back to the London 2012 Paralympics and you may remember the name Victoria Arlen. She astounded people as part of Team USA swimming squad by winning 3 Silver medals and the Gold in the Women's 100m Freestyle S6. This was an amazing accomplishment because in 2010 Victoria was only just recovering from a vegetative state known as locked-in syndrome.  This book tells the story of a lost childhood and her amazing recovery to success in swimming and as a television presenter for US sports channel ESPN.

The books opening chapter relays the mental place that Victoria found herself in during January 2009. She relays her first awareness since 2006 and the confusion that she suffers as she realises that she cannot communicate and other than terrible seizures cannot move at all! At this point though she does realise that she is thinking clearly and she can perform a mental checklist to help her keep her sanity. She remembers back to how this situation started when she was just 10 years old and how she used to be a healthy child until in July 2006 she started having pains and her physical abilities start to deteriorate. Despite many trips to Doctors and hospitals they largely classify her problems as psychological. As she tells the story she is admitted to a care facility, where, because she has started to lose much of her cognitive awareness and they believe it is a choice she has made to be unresponsive, some of the staff at that facility physically and emotionally abuse her.

It is at this time that she believes that she is going to die as she is in a lot of pain. She talks about praying and even mentally composes notes to herself, to God and to her family. It is at this point when recalling a Bible verse gives her hope and helps her escape from the fear that has her gripped. The mental freedom comes around the same time as freedom from the facility where she was being mistreated, and she is able to be cared for at another hospital much closer to home where they care for her physical needs. After a brief period of respite where she can be cared for at home, her body starts to get worse again, eventually she is admitted to another hospital and they end up putting her into a medically induced coma. When she eventually wakes up she is locked in, aware of her surroundings but unable to move or communicate.

The book then charts the course of her recovery and the faithfulness of her family in their support around her. From the moment that she is able to regain some control over her eyelids and can blink for some limited communication with those around her. The path to recovery is slow but she finds determination to overcome the odds at each stage. Victoria wants to be active and having regained control of her upper body she starts playing sled hockey before her coach encourages her to pursue her previous favourite sport, swimming.

As you would imagine this story is incredibly inspiring as Victoria's journey is one of courage and determination. Victoria had to overcome many setbacks in order to get back any kind of quality of life, she takes strength from her faith in God and the support of her family. The story is told in Victoria's own words and that is where this book begins to suffer from problems. I can understand Victoria writing this herself as an experience to make sure that she conveys exactly what she wants to. Unfortunately the writing is quite limited and repetitive throughout, the pacing is confusing with great detail about somethings, and then some other key details being skipped over. The book also suffers from certain issues with the perspective switching from first to third person within the same paragraphs and sometimes even within the same sentence! This book really needed an editor or perhaps even a ghostwriter who could turn this biography into something that would be easier to read.

One thing that feels like it was missing in this book, especially in a book being put out by a Christian publisher, are the basic details of her faith. As faith is part of what gets her through these challenges it seems that these important moments are not included. There is no real mention of any church background prior to her remembering a Bible verse when in the Psychological facility, and there is no mention of any faith or relationship with Jesus in the book at all. I would love to know more about the personal nature of her faith and how that affected her determination, sadly this is all lacking. I can understand this in a book that is being sold in the mainstream, but it doesn't make sense in a Christian publication.

You cannot possibly read this story and not be inspired. The trouble is it is a hard read anyway because of the harrowing nature of what happened to Victoria made harder by the poor writing style. She doesn't write towards her Christian audience either which leaves the story feeling incomplete. I understand the need to undergo the process of writing this out herself in the first instance, but at some point this book should have been passed through a few editors to straighten out some of the inconsistencies. I cannot help but feel that this isn't the book that it should have been.  

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